Alexa vs Red camera advice

Dominik Bauch Oct 15, 2016

  1. Funny, I've advised low budget projects of exactly the opposite; Anamorphic glass costs more to rent than some very good spherical options AND it demands a more experienced 1st AC to land focus properly on Anamorphic glass, post is a little more complicated (not for those of us sitting here on a Saturday night discussing the ins and outs of exact pixel ratios, but for the likes of people that tend to be working on the lower budget projects) and thus costly, and even monitoring the image on set can involve some additional hardware, software, and even people, all things considered.

    I've worked on . . . 9 features now, in dailies or on set, and only 2 of those shot Anamorphic. One was a Tier 1, and the only reason it was able to shoot Anamorphic is because some of the people involved were long-time veterans of the industry and were able to call in a TON of favors. If my opinion is asked, I would never suggest a low budget project shoot anamorphic, despite the valid advantages you mention.
    Marc Wielage likes this.
  2. sorry guys, math in not an opinion, that you like our not. you exposed 2.9k horizontal, that you like it or not, that is what you got.
    with anamorphic lense, you get better vertical resolution, that is about it.
    a pixel does not know you squeezed more information in it, it is lost once hit the sensor.

    anecdotal experience, is, well, anecdotal
  3. Here is what I'd like to suggest to end this discourse once and for all. I can ask my friend who happened to have both cameras- Mini and Dragon with both sets of KOWA and K35. I'm sure we could do a quick side by side set up of the two cameras. Could anyone, that is involved in this discussion provide a 4k screening room for an hour or so, so we could provide the definitive answer to the question?:
    Does Alexa camera with Anamorphic lenses and RAW recording should outright be disqualified from being considered for 4k project based solely on a pixel count as opposed to a true 4k camera?
    Or you feel, that this is the wrong question?
  4. I agree on that point as well Mike.
    So, my point, if anamorphic images are acceptable for artistic reasons, then Alexa SHOULD be allowed to be used for Netflix production.
  5. On the project I'm working at this very moment, the Alexa Mini Prores image is 2904x2160 for a 2.66 unsqueezed image. It may be different in RAW mode...
    Alex Stolpakov likes this.
  6. red (dragon) with anamorphic lens yield 3.9k IIRC, hence disqualify for netflix automatically...

  7. 1) shoot frame charts/resolution charts
    2) I can probably talk with the boss and use one of my rooms in the evening, 4k Barco.

    btw, no, I prefer Alexa scaled to 4k that red any time.
    Adam Hawkey and Marc Wielage like this.
  8. Of coarse I concede, that resolution charts will look different. The whole point is to evaluate images based solely on the visceral response of Alexa vs Red on 4k screen.

    Then what are we arguing about?:D

    Still, if you interested to see the difference on a big screen ( I sure do) I can probably make it happen. Let me know, if you can get the room...
  9. My starting assumption for this thread is that it's for low budget work where it justifies the camera purchase rather then rent. I know some people consider 250k the starting point of low budget, but I often find that number is a bit fudged as it's aligned more for SAG and not the real actual total cost - so I think of low budget between 500k to 25million (either way I wouldn't recommend a camera purchase for a 250k production). When you get in the above 2million budgets, the film better look and sound completely tier one since that range is really tough now adays. Long story short, I'd agree with you on anything under 500k, but again I wouldnt recommend a New RED or Alexa camera purchase for a micro budget/ultra-low-budget film.

    [edit ... and that was is in us dollars)
  10. The Netflix delivery specs don't exactly cover the problem of anamorphic release in a 1.78 project. They are very specific about uprezzes:

    "Up-resing of content is prohibited. SD sources cannot be used to create HD deliverables. 4K video must come from a true 4K source and maintain unity in 4K throughout the entire post-production pipeline."

    The problem with what they're saying is that there are a lot of variables here. Interestingly, in another document they say that a Blackmagic 4K Ursa Camera is acceptable for program acquisition, but they imply that any standard Alexa (not the Alexa 65) is not acceptable. So in other words, a $5000 camera is OK, but a $50,000 camera is not.
    Margus Voll likes this.
  11. C'mon, Marc. You know better than that. Cost is not the issue, not for Netflix and not for anyone else. You use Resolve, right? So a "free" program is acceptable as opposed to a "costly" one (i.e., Baselight, Lustre, etc.)?

    Specs are acceptable and IMHO necessary in our industry. Sometimes they're more meaningful than at other times, but companies have an absolute right and in my opinion obligation to set some minimum standards for delivery elements, and if you want to work with them, you adhere to those standards. You don't have to agree with their conclusions that led to the creation of those standards, but you should understand that they didn't pull numbers out of a hat, and it's their money. You create material that meets those standards and move on. That's the way it is for post production suppliers, and it's the way it is (or should be) for production as well.
    Adam Hawkey likes this.
  12. Pixel specs aside, I have always found the Alexa's 2.8K or 3.2K raw image to appear sharper during display than any high-rez Red image when mastered for either 2K or 4K. From my experience shooting with both cameras I've consistently found the Alexa's sensor to provide a much rounder, smoother image overall. Especially when shot arriraw the image can have extreme amounts of contrast graded back in to produce a sharp, rich, extremely contrasty picture that still retains smooth gradations in the mid tones and high lights. The Red sensors are nowhere near as elastic in terms of DR and contrast. Under certain lighting conditions both cameras can produce almost identical results but in extreme situations the Alexa always seems to handle scene contrast, mixed color temps, and specular highlights much more favorably then the Reds.

    The Helium 8K sensor is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. There are always compromises. I haven't tested this sensor yet but my gut tells me there will be problems with color separation that will negatively affect skin tones especially under mixed lighting situations. Conversely the Alexa Mini provides HD, 4K, raw, internal NDs, a full-ap 4:3 sensor, records to cheap Cfast media, and will probably be worth twice as much as the Helium in 5 years. Go with the Mini.
  13. So, Mike, you're saying you believe a Blackmagic Cinema camera puts out a picture exactly as good as an Alexa? :eek:

    Me personally, I think the Alexa looks better than any Blackmagic camera I've seen. I also think that there's a lot more to judging quality than resolution alone, particularly if the resolution is that close (particularly with Alexa in 3.2K mode).

  14. I didn't say that, although frankly, I've seen images from the 4.6K Ursa that are pretty darned good, and with enough quality to satisfy some pretty discriminating VFX supervisors. You equated such choices with cost, which I think is rather short sighted, something that is true in many areas of current technology, particularly when you artificially limit the criteria. For example, a $35K Ford Focus RS might be faster than a $200K Maybach from 0-60mph, but it's irrelevant because you don't buy a Maybach for its 0-60 time. There are broadcast shows using Alexas, and there are broadcast shows (at least on on Netflix, in fact) using Canon C300 MkIIs. Both have their reasons and both are satisfied with the results, despite a rather significant cost difference. If you're going to compare devices, cost is not always the differentiator between what is appropriate and what is not, or even what is best and what isn't.
  15. I dunno. I think if you shot a show on a $1995 4K BMD camera and compared it to an Alexa shooting under identical circumstances, I'd be extremely surprised if it beat the Alexa in any way except 4K resolution. I think there are a lot of people who get wrapped up in numbers and kind of lose sight of the bigger picture -- literally -- in terms of how it actually looks in the real world.

    The number of people falling all over themselves crowing about 8K on the RedUser group is a little alarming. I don't look forward getting those projects in for post, especially if they get it in their heads they need to actually finish in 8K. There's already a growing number of users there complaining that they want a "affordable" HDR/Rec2100 grading monitor for their projects, unaware of what this actually costs in the real world.
  16. I would advise you to purchase the camera that meets your budget, but make sure you have all the accessories you are going to need and use. Extra cables, pelican cases, filters, insurance. Anything that truly gets you a functional camera.
    Get the best batteries you can afford, Firecrest NDs, Schneider True POLA. All the MB reducers you might need for your lenses.

    And take a look at Helium files yourself. Test them, this a serious camera, just make sure you use RedWideGamut RGB. I really do not understand why people like Adrian post gut feelings, when I am seeing insane files coming from this sensor.
    Marc Wielage likes this.

  17. Things are moving quite fast, likely in five years there's gonna be a $1000 camera that will beat the mini in all aspects.
  18. I don't know if I'd say that, but one thing I've been telling camera users for awhile is: lenses last for a long time. Tripods and heads last damn near forever. Lighting and grip gear holds up well for a long time. G&E gear in general holds its value. But cameras have kind of turned into computers in that a $50,000 model from seven years ago may well be worth only a fraction of that today. (I'm reminded of seeing a Sony F900 on eBay for $495 last year, with no buyers.)

    For a lot of people, it may make more sense just to rent the camera and then own everything else. When the newer thing comes out, rent the new thing. Otherwise, you have to get used to the idea that you spend $15,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 or $40,000, then get rid of that every five years and buy a new one. If you're shooting every single week, sure, the camera can pay for itself. But a lot of the neophyte users I see on RedUser are not in that category.
    Andrew Webb likes this.
  19. It is just another expensive hobby. Let them have that.
    Marc Wielage likes this.
  20. It's a very expensive hobby. I have warned people many times that they think they're gonna get into the filmmaking business when they buy a $40,000 Red camera. What they don't know is that you have to spend at least another $100K for everything else. And a really big kit would have more than $100K just in lenses -- lenses that won't become obsolete every five years.

Share This Page